Art Smith's Secret Weapon? Cooking Like Mom

Smith also keeps busy writing cookbooks (3 of them to date) and teaching classes at the Oprah Winfrey Leadership Academy. Despite these many ventures, Smith always puts his restaurant first. "I can tell ya' after a long period of time without people seeing you -- they can tell in the restaurant. I think that's very important and that the public must be able to taste your food."

When he's not at the restaurant or traveling the globe to cook for high-profile clients, Smith is at home with his life partner, artist Jesus Salgueiro, and their menagerie of pets. The couple has 6 cats, 3 dogs and -- at last count --15 fish. Smith is willing to accommodate when it comes to food, but not his beloved animals. "I'm very understanding of people when they can't eat this or that but don't be comin' in my house saying you don't like cats or dogs because you can carry yourself right out! Okay?"

Whether he's cooking for Julia Roberts or Nelson Mandela, the formula is always the same for this tried-and-true Southerner. "People say to me 'Art Smith, this reminds me of my mother's cooking' or 'This reminds me of my grandmother's cooking' -- hook line sinker we have caught them!"

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